Today, 16 September 2021, is the 34th anniversary of the birth of the great Burry Stander. Tragically, we lost Burry on 3 January 2013 when he was killed, while training, by a taxi driver that broke the law. We have compiled a few tributes to Burry over the years because he was so damn flippen incredibly good at racing bikes, because he was South African; and because we miss him. This tribute is mostly photos, partly writing, all nostalgia…

By Sean Badenhorst

“I don’t think anyone really knows how determined Burry was. He knew he wanted to be a world class bicycle racer from a young age and he became one. Not necessarily because he was exceptionally gifted, but because he wanted to and his determination was one of the features that defined him.”

That’s what Mandie Stander, Burry’s mom told us when we visited her in 2017. We had obviously seen his determination in races, but Mandie and Charles (Burry’s dad) saw it off the bike as well as during his growing years.

Burry was such a keen racer. He only really started becoming more specific with his racing objectives in 2011. Until then he pretty much raced everything he could, including XCO World Cup races, local marathons and road races. He entered the South African Road and Time Trial Champs most years and despite not being on a team, was always a title contender in the road race.

Most years, Burry started racing in January and ended in December. He never asked for appearance money – he would just enter like everyone else and light up a race by always wanting to win. He won many, many races in his 25 years, some the biggest in the world, some the biggest in South Africa and some just for fun.

Here’s a series of images that capture the Burry Stander class, skill, smile and determination.

Burry claimed the silver medal at the 2008 Under-23 XCO World Championships in Italy. The winner was Nino Schurter and the bronze medallist was Mathias Fluckiger. We can only wonder how the international XCO scene would have been had he not left us so soon. He would have made it difficult for those two Swiss racers to be as dominant as they have been, that’s for sure! | Photo: Sven Martin

At the 2007 Hill2Hill marathon from Hillcrest to Hilton, Burry (left) just edged out Brandon Stewart in a sprint to claim the win. This despite having a flat back tyre… | Photo: Probably Jon Ivins

We have published this image before, but it’s probably more relevant to many now. The Under-23 Men used to race World Cups with the Elite men, not separately like these days. Burry was second overall (behind Christoph Sauser) at the 2008 World Cup in Andorra. Here he is on the Under-23 podium with Nino Schurter (second) and Mathias Fluckiger (third). | Photo: Sven Martin

Burry was super keen to race the Absa Cape Epic, but the two-rider team format created a challenge for him as he didn’t have a GT Factory Racing teammate that would be up to the challenge. Fortunately, Swiss racer, Christoph Sauser, who was racing XCO for Specialized, saw an opportunity and with Burry, created a composite team under a charity name. The Songo.info was a real cause and has developed into one of the most successful cycling-based charities in South Africa. Burry and Christoph were fourth in Prologue and then won Stage 1 (pictured here), claiming the overall race lead. | Photo: Gary Perkin

Another image we have published before, but which is worth examining again. On Stage 3 (Day 4) of the 2008 Absa Cape Epic, Burry was forced to withdraw from the race, while leading (with Christoph Sauser). He developed an ITB injury that became overwhelming. If you have had an ITB injury, you will understand both the pain and the frustration he is feeling here as he walks with his dad, Charles to the vehicle. He returned to the Cape Epic each year after that because he was determined to become the first South African to win it. | Photo: Sven Martin.

Burry finished his 2008 World Cup Series off on a high. He won the overall series title in the Under-23 division and finished an impressive fifth overall. Here he shared the final World Cup Series podium with the overall winner and XCO legend, Julien Absalon. | Photo: Sven Martin

Also in 2008, after having a super successful XCO World Cup season, Burry wasn’t going to miss out on the Ride Crater Cruise, a 105km, relatively flat, mostly gravel-road race in Parys that offered good prize money and TV coverage. Because of the big prize purse, it attracted most of the country’s top mountain bike and road racers. Burry found himself in a break with Ben Melt Swanepoel (front) and Kevin Evans (rear). But with 10km remaining, Burry punctured. He repaired it and got going again, but suffered another puncture, which he was unable to repair. Not one to let a adversity stop him, he rode the last couple of kilometres on the rim to claim third place. Note his nickname, Dart on his number board. He was also known as The Kid and his twitter handle was africanmtbkid. And his Mom calls him Buksie | Photos: Wayne Hayward 

Never one to turn down a bicycle race, Burry was a regular competitor at the South African Road Champs, which would normally be held in February. This image was shot at the 2011 Road Champs in Port Elizabeth where Burry was sharing the work with 2010 South African Champion, Christoff van Heerden. Darren Lill won that day and Burry claimed the silver medal. | Photo: Cycle Nation

At the 2010 Cape Town Cycle Tour, Burry was in the podium mix as usual. Malcolm Lange won his third title, Darryl Impey (obscured behind Malcolm) was second, Christoff van Heerden (in yellow) was third and Burry was fourth. Lance Armstrong’s presence (that’s him in red in the distance) at this race, raised the media profile of the event significantly.| Photo: Michelle Froome.

This was a curious challenge, but Burry was always game and he understood the importance of giving his sponsors maximum exposure. It was a climbing challenge on a mountain in Spain arranged between two top Specialized riders in 2009 – Burry, who had just won the Under-23 XCO World Champs and Andy Schleck, who was runner-up in that year’s Tour de France (he won it in 2010).  The weather was awful and Andy and Burry were timed going up the tar road and the dirt/trail respectively. They then switched and Burry climbed the tar on a road bike and Andy climbed the gravel on a mountain bike. As you can see, we struggled to find any decent images of this challenge! But we did find a Spanish video here. Timing-wise, Burry was in peak form and Andy had started his off-season so don’t read too much into the results. Burry wasn’t far off Andy on the tar climb, but crushed him on the gravel.  Tar: Burry 36min 29sec; Andy 35min47sec; Gravel: Burry 36:39; Andy 45:27. Overall: Burry 1:13:08; Andy 1:21:14.

While most of his XCO rivals remained focussed on XCO, Burry gave the XCM World Champs a bash in 2010. The Marathon World Champs that year took place in Germany over 107km. Austria’s Alban Lakata won the first of his three marathon world titles that day. He was five seconds ahead of a group of five. Italy’s Mirko Celestino won the bunch gallop with Burry just grabbing the bronze. Burry is still the only South African male to have won a medal at a UCI Marathon World Championships. Here’s a short summary video.

At the 2010 UCI XCO World Championships at Monte St Anne, Canada, Burry finished third behind Spain’s Jose Hermida and Czech Republic’s Jaroslav Kulhavy. Always embracing innovation, Burry was the only rider on 29-inch wheels. Burry is still the only South African to have won an Elite XCO World Championships medal. | Photos: Canadian Cyclist & Trailwatch.net

After being disappointed with his 15th place at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Burry was fired up to challenge for a medal a the Olympic Games in London in 2012. The hype was huge and with the event being broadcast live in South Africa on a Saturday afternoon, it captured an audience beyond just mountain bike fans. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think Burry got caught up behind a crash early on and missed the initial break comprising Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE), Nino Schurter (SUI) and Marco Fontana (ITA). Determined as ever, chased hard with Jose Hermida (ESP) and they bridged across to form a five-man lead group for most of the race (as in the above photo). Burry attacked a few times on the second and third laps to try break things up but the group was solid. Early on Lap 4 Burry and Hermida lost touch with with the other three, but then closed it down again later in the lap creating much excitement back home. But on the final lap Kulhavy and Schurter’s accelerations saw them move clear to contest the sprint, which Kulhavy grabbed in the narrowest of finishes. Fontana got the bronze, Hermida fourth and Burry fifth, just 30 seconds off the gold medalist. What a race! It elevated Burry’s profile in South Africa significantly as well as the profile of XCO racing. 

As mentioned earlier, Burry was always up for a race. He was primarily an XCO racer, but when his international schedule allowed, he’d enter local marathons. He didn’t always win them, but he was always a title contender. Always! At the time, South Africa was marathon mad and our races were ridiculously well organised (most still are). In the image above (left) you can see Burry outsprinting Neil Macdonald and Waylon Woolcock to win a Trailseeker marathon in Pretoria; and on the right, he’s outsprinting Kevin Evans to win a MTN Series marathon somewhere in the Western Cape. A sprint against Burry was risky, partly because he was smart and quick, but mostly because he was so damn determined. | Photos: Zoon Cronje

The Singlespeed World Champs is a proper race, but not really. There’s first place and then everyone else comes fourth. It’s zany and colourful as riders have to dress a bit off. Or a lot off. The 2012 Singlespeed World Championships were held in Winterton, South Africa. Burry decided to enter for fun and not to win. He and his wife Cherise slept in their car the night before and then dressed up for the race. The race includes complusory beer stops where you have to down a beer before continuing. See, it is a real race! Anyway, Burry heard from someone out on the route that an American was leading and he decided that a South African should at least challenge the guy if the race is in South Africa. So he set off in pursuit of Macky Franklin, but crashed and broke his saddle (must have been choosing the beer lines). Unperterbed and determined as ever, Burry charged on and caught Macky near the finish. The pair sprinted for the line and since there wasn’t really a defined line, the riders three riders that finished behind them had to look at the videos and photos from mobile phones of spectators to confirm the winner. Burry was declared the winner, just, by the peak of his cap! Being the sport he was, Burry then got his first tattoo at the finish line – one of the conditions of winning a Singlespeed World Champs. | Photos: Top – unknown; Bottom – Dino Lloyd

As a modern mountain biker, you know how hard it is to show the steepness of a climb in a photo, right? This is one of those photos. It’s also probably the most iconic Burry Stander photo. This is a climb near Robertson on Stage 1 of the 2012 Cape Epic. Burry and Christoph won the Prologue the day before and were on the charge and in charge. Well, Burry was in charge, nobody else was able to ride this climb, including Christoph. Remember earlier where we described Burry’s disappointment at having to pull out of his first Cape Epic in 2008? Well, his goal never changed. He wanted to become the first South African to win the Cape Epic, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race. After a few efforts he and Christoph eventually managed to outride bad luck and their rivals to win the 2011 edition. They then also won the 2012 edition. Burry’s determination never faltered. He became the first South African to win the Cape Epic. And he is still the only South African to have won it. | Photo: Sven Martin.

What’s e covered here is only some of what Burry achieved. He was 25 when he died. A very short life, but it was almost as if he somehow knew that he needed to do as much as he could because damn, it was a full life! So many races in so many different places. He loved racing and he was so good at it. Sometimes he raced more with his head and sometimes he raced more with his heart, but always, always, he raced with determination.

Photo: Zoon Cronje

Previous Burry Stander Tributes:

REMEMBERING BURRY’S BIG BREAKTHROUGH 

dear burry

BURRY STANDER TRIBUTE: FAREWELL TO A LEGEND

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